Joanna Yeates was a landscape designer who lived with her boyfriend in her first floor apartment in Bristol.
The couple was looking forward to Christmas 2010 – they even organized a party for friends back home. But first her partner Greg Reardon went back to his native Yorkshire to visit his family the weekend before Christmas.
With her boyfriend, 25-year-old Miss Yeates went for an after-work drink with friends on December 17th. From there she went home, bought a pizza on the way before coming back around 8:30 p.m.
Only a living person knows exactly what happened next.
It is known that Vincent Tobacco knocked on the door and entered Miss Yeates’ apartment shortly after her return. It was the first time they met. He had lived with his girlfriend in a neighboring apartment for around 18 months.
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Tobacco was an engineer with a dark, secret obsession with violent pornography. His motive for killing Miss Yeates is unknown, but in a brutal murder that shocked the nation, he strangled her in the apartment before carrying her body to his car.
There were later reports of a woman screaming about the time of the murder, which was likely Miss Yeates. But until she was reported missing days later, no one knew something was wrong.
Mr. Reardon became increasingly concerned that his girlfriend hadn’t responded to his calls or texts. When he returned on Sunday evening, his concerns grew.
Miss Yeates wasn’t home. The couple’s cat hadn’t been fed and their cell phone was in her coat pocket in the hallway. With temperatures below zero in Bristol this week, no one would leave the house without a coat.
Mr. Reardon reported his girlfriend missing and the investigation began, with police, friends and family joining in the search.
On Christmas Day, Miss Yeates’ body was found by dog handlers in the snow on the ground. It was left on the side of the road near the entrance to a quarry three miles from their house.
The missing person’s appeal became a murder investigation. Since there was no sign of a break-in, investigators turned to their neighbors.
Tobacco decided to deliberately mislead the police in order to get away with its crimes. He called from Amsterdam – where he was visiting his family – to falsely indict innocent neighbor Christopher Jefferies.
While the senior detectives were interrogating the suspect, Detective Constable Karen Thomas was sent to Tobacco Holland on New Year’s Eve to set up a case against the man her bosses were holding back in Bristol.
But DC Thomas’ intuition told her something was wrong when Tobacco started asking too many questions about the forensic work of the case.
The detective grew suspicious, and when it became clear that her current suspect wasn’t the killer, attention turned to 32-year-old Tobacco. Ultimately, completely innocent, Mr. Jefferies was released.
It was three weeks before the police finally arrested tobacco. The forensic evidence he was curious about actually concerned him. Police found traces of DNA left on Miss Yeates’ body while he was carrying her, along with her DNA in his car.
In late October 2011, Tobacco was found guilty of the murder of Joanna Yeates – the jury disbelieved his story that he “accidentally killed her” when he tried to suppress her scream. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum sentence of 20 years.
During the trial, details of Tobacco’s actions came to light.
Miss Yeates sustained 43 injuries while fighting for her life, but Tobacco used its 6ft 4in body to overwhelm her.
Miss Yeates, who didn’t even know the name of her killer, is said to have died within about 20 seconds of tobacco gripping her throat. For reasons only he knows, Tobacco kept her sock and took the pizza she’d bought the night before.
After Tobacco murdered Miss Yeates, Tobacco put her body in the trunk of his car before setting off on a shopping spree in Asda. Here he wrote to his girlfriend that he was “bored”.
Within an hour he had dumped her partially clothed body in the fetus position on a snowy edge. Just 24 hours later, he was drinking champagne with friends.
In the hours, days, and weeks after her death, Tobacco repeatedly lied to his girlfriend, family, police, and even his legal team about his actions.
During the trial, Prosecutor Nigel Lickley told QC, “Vincent Tobacco is very smart. He is intelligent and highly educated. He’s dishonest, he’s cheating, and he’s a liar.
“He is when he chooses to be very calculating. Make decisions, cover your tracks.
“There’s a word for that – that’s smart.”
He accused Tobacco of being “calculated” in the months following the murder – of continuously lying in emails to his girlfriend and family.
But Tobacco began to make a mistake – he kept changing his story as evidence of his guilt surfaced – and answered difficult questions with “I can’t remember” more than 80 times during his three-week trial in Bristol Crown Court.
On the stand, he wept as he apologized to Miss Yeates’ relatives for taking them through hell. He said he would be persecuted for the rest of his life “no matter what sentence I receive”.
But the jury was not impressed by Tobacco’s tears. He had robbed relatives of a beloved friend, sister and daughter. Miss Yeates and Mr. Reardon have been described by friends as “the perfect couple”.
In 2015, Tobacco also pleaded guilty to possessing more than 100 indecent pictures of children and was sentenced to 10 months in prison, to be served concurrently with his existing life sentence.
He’s serving his sentence at HMP Wakefield.
Corpse in the Snow: The murder of Joanna Yeates will air on Tuesday, January 4th at 10 p.m. on Channel 5.
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